Around 40% of dogs and 30% of cats in Australia suffer from weight problems. The most common causes of this condition include overfeeding, unhealthy snacks and a lack of exercise. Weight issues can also be symptomatic of a chronic health condition such as hypothyroidism.
Whilst you might think those extra kilos your cat and dog are carrying look cute, they can predispose your pet to developing a number of very serious health conditions, lessen their quality of life, and even reduce their lifespan. Some of the health conditions obese and overweight pets are predisposed to include:
- Spinal problems
- Cruciate injuries
- Higher anesthetic risk
- Exercise intolerance
- Heat intolerance
- Skin problems
If you have an overweight pet but are unsure what to do about it, call us to organise a weight management discussion with one of our knowledgeable vets. Our veterinarians have plenty of experience helping pets shed excess weight and will be able to provide a weight management regime that is tailored to the needs of your animal.
Tips for weight loss in dogs
- Make the energy input less than the output
Perhaps the most obvious way to help your pet burn calories is to decrease the amount of calories you feed them and increase the amount of calories they use so that their body is forced to tap into stored energy. The key to this is remaining firm in the face of your hungry looking dog and not giving into those puppy eyes.
- Replace kibble and tinned food with vegetables
Replacing dry food with cooked vegetables is an alternative way to reduce your pet’s calorie intake without reducing the amount of bulk in their diet. Replacing between a quarter to a third of your pet’s regular dry food with cooked vegetables helps your dog feel full and allows you to avoid pleading puppy eyes.
- Get rid of carbs
Make sure you are buying dog food that is high in fibre and protein but low in fat and carbs. If you enjoy making your own dog’s food, replace grains with vegetables.
- Stop giving your pet human food
Human food is not made for dogs. Giving your dog a slice of cheese is the equivalent of you eating the entire block. If you want to treat your pup, make healthy choices for them and provide something high in lean animal protein like a piece of skinless chicken breast.
- Try meal replacements
Raw bones are great for promoting dental health and keeping your pet entertained, but they should be used as meal replacements rather than extra treats if you’re trying to help your dog normalize their weight.
Tips for weight loss in cats
- Feed them less
Just like with dogs, reducing your cat’s calorie intake is the most straightforward way to promote weight loss. Make sure you do this in consultation with your vet so the reduced portion sizes are suitable for your cat’s breed and size.
- Curb grazing
Cats love to graze on their food throughout the day and this habit is fine, except when owners fill up the bowl every time it gets low. If your cat overeats, having a bowl perpetually full of kibble is a recipe for weight gain. Avoid this by measuring out the correct portion of kibble for the day, and don’t fill up the bowl again if it gets low. Your cat will learn to adjust their grazing to smaller portions.
- Drop the carbs
As carnivores, cats don’t really need a lot of carbohydrates in their diet. In fact, cats eating a diet high in carbs often suffer from weight issues and are predisposed to developing a number of chronic health conditions including diabetes. Make sure you are feeding your cat a diet that is high in protein and fiber but low in fat and carbs.
- Don’t feed your cat human food
Cats really aren’t meant to eat anything other than lean protein and their digestive systems can’t handle highly processed human food. If you want to give your cat a treat, buy some high protein treats designed for cats or give them a raw chicken neck to promote dental health.